Obasanjo: Nigeria will dissipate in no time if current drift is not halted

From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo warned on Saturday that if the current security, political and economic debacle, which put the country on the precipice, is not halted as a matter of urgency, Nigeria will be dissipated in no time.

Obasanjo, who noted that Nigeria in 2015 was seventy-five per cent a country and fifty per cent a nation at present, declared that Nigeria will not be more than fifty per cent a country and twenty-five per cent a nation, if the the current trend in the country is not reversed.

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The former president insisted that Nigeria is tottering, warning efforts must be geared towards ensuring that Nigeria does not disintegrate and broken into countries, the situation which according to him, will be a monumental tragedy for Nigeria, Africa, the black race and humanity.

Obasanjo gave this position while delivering his speech at International Symposium organised to mark his 85th birthday, held at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, with the theme, “Africa Narrative with Nigeria Situation”.

He expressed his dismay at some reports on social media that he had endorsed and was sponsoring three presidential candidates from the southern part of the country, ahead of the 2023 general elections, saying, ‘for me, the major issue is how to progress Nigeria from a country to a nation.’

He reiterated that he was done with partisan politics, but he would continue to involve in activities capable of promoting the welfare and well-being of the people in his community, state, country, Africa and the world.

‘As the quadrennial madness builds a head of steam and the runners and riders crisscross the nation in the quest for nomination as the party flag bearer to the highest office in the land, I read and hear about endorsement and statements in support of candidates that I frankly have not made and forming next political parties that I can never get involved in. I was told that social media credited to me names of three people from the south that I am sponsoring for Presidency in 2023.

‘My friend, Professor Ango Abdullah, who brought this to my knowledge remarked that he did not believe that I made such a statement because it was out of my character. I have neither named names nor stated my position. In a situation like the one we are in, I will not rush into naming names without necessary consultations and well-defined principles and criteria. We need to be clear about what Nigeria needs today and why Nigeria needs it. Only then can we answer the question of how that will inform us of the criteria and characteristics for determining who.

‘I believe in principles before personalities and taking personalities before principles is putting the cart before the horse. And for me, the major issue is how to progress Nigeria from a country to a nation. If in 2015 Nigeria was seventy-five per cent a country and fifty per cent a nation, today, Nigeria will not be more than fifty per cent a country and twenty-five per cent a nation. The task of reversing the trend is beyond one personality, one political party or all political parties; it is beyond professional and commercial politicians alone. It demands and requires all hands on deck. I mean Nigerians in all walks of life – politicians, community leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders, diplomatic leaders, leaders in academia, leaders in all aspects of government life, and leaders in other aspects of civil society.

‘Nigeria is tottering and for as long as we continue to put the cart before the horse, it cannot be well. Or put another way, for as long as we continue to do the same thing over and over again, the result will not be different. If the drift is not halted, the remaining twenty-five per cent of the Nigerian nation will be dissipated in no time and Nigeria will not be a country but countries and will never be possible to be a nation again. That will be a monumental tragedy for Nigeria, Africa, the black race and humanity.

‘But if I retired from partisan politics, if politics is the welfare of the people, I must not retire from the welfare and well-being of people whether in my own community, in my own state, in my own country, anywhere in Africa or indeed anywhere in the world and that is why I have the type of responsibility that I have now,’ the former president stated.

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He further observed that since 1999, politicians have changed from one political party or another, manoeuvred and manipulated to the point that election results are no longer reflections of the will of the people, adding “and we seemed to be progressively going back rather than going forward politically, economically and socially”.

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Obasanjo, however, warned that “if politicians continue in the same pattern of recycling, sweet-word campaigning, manoeuvring without substance of integrity, honesty, patriotism, commitment, outreach, courage, understanding of what make a nation and what make for development, we will soon have to say goodbye to Nigeria as a nation”.

He also noted that if the EFCC and ICPC have done their jobs properly and supported adequately by the judiciary, most of the people running around and those for whom people are running around ahead of 2023 would be in jail.

‘Any person who has no integrity in small things cannot have integrity in big things. Fixing Nigeria must begin on the principles of nation building, not necessarily on emotion, sentiments, euphoria, ignorance, incompetence, ethnicity, nepotism, bigotry, sectionalism, regionalism, religion or class. The issues of security, stability, development, economy and our relationship within Africa and with the rest of the world can only be taken care of if we get the issue of the nation building right.

‘We have a lot to learn from the events of the last almost twenty-four years and God is not to blame if we fail. It would appear that we are not getting our priorities right and that can spell doom on our country if we fail to do what we should do for nation-building in terms of fundamentals of equity, justice, common ideals, popular education, shared values, mutual respect and equality of opportunity anchored and propelled by leaders across the board that are persons of integrity, honour, morality, competence, great virtue, courage to do what is right, humility and ability to put a team together and work with them in selfless devotion and service with the fear of God. Federal character, rotation and such other measures are meant to help our nation-building process and more sure-footedly, move Nigeria forward, but riding over these measures rudely, shoddily and roughly cannot augur well for our nation-building process and progress.

‘From personal experience and clinical observation, there is no substitute for a steady and uncompromised process of nation-building as we have had in some notable examples in the past that have stood us in good stead.

‘I have been at the giving end and at the receiving end of contribution to the nation-building process and I know that if we derail from nation-building process with solid principles, Nigeria will be shipwrecked,’ he stated.

While maintaining that no region or zone should claim to have monopoly of Nigeria, Obasanjo said Nigeria should bring objectivity, national interest and patriotism to bear, adding the characteristics should be spiced with equity, integrity and performance, that can lead the country ‘along the path of nation-building on the basis of justice, fast economic development, inclusive growth, shared value and our rightful place in the global division of labour and decision making process.’

He said the Federal Character is a very important and perfect instrument of nation-building deliberately entrenched in the country’ Constitution, submitting that “when we have adequately taken care of nation-building measures especially management of our unity and taken care of every anomalous situation and performance or lack of it, that have put us in political, security, economic and solid quagmire situations that we find ourselves, then we must zero on personalities”.

The former president posited that each contender for the position of president in 2023 must be properly x-rayed and profiled from birth, while Nigerians must be educated to be able to make a choice that will be in the national interest and propel the country forward.

Such a person, according to him, will have to lead what remains of the nation to courageously continue on the path of nation-building as a national team leader, no matter on what platform he or she assumes leadership.

Obasanjo submitted that Nigerians should stop sacrificing character, track records and performance on the altar of ethnic, regional or religious jingoism, adding that “as the watchman counts on daybreak, so too do I count on Nigerians and Nigeria to bring forth that person”

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